2013 Pre-Preseason Pac-12 North Rankings
Washington QB Keith Smith
Washington QB Keith Smith
Posted Jan 23, 2013

The too early look at how good the Pac-12 North teams should be in 2013.

CFN 2013 First Look Rankings

Pac-12 North

2012 CFN Final Season Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-29 | Rankings 30-48 | Rankings 49-67
- Rankings 68-86Rankings 87-105The Bottom 19

FINAL 2012 Rankings By Conference
- ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA | Ind
- MAC | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt | WAC
- Based On Opinion ... CFN 2012 FINAL Rankings, Top  25  
- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason Pac-12 North Rankings
- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason Pac-12 South Rankings

E-mail Pete Fiutak
Follow us ... @ColFootballNews  

It might seem way too early, but considering the returning starters and the teams coming back, where does everyone stand before Signing Day and spring ball? Here's CFN's first look at all the teams for 2013 based on how good they appear to be at the moment.  

- CFN 2013 Pre-Preseason Pac-12 South Rankings

 1. Oregon (12-1)

There's no excuse for the Ducks to not be in the national title chase. Mark Helfrich inherits a heater from Chip Kelly with 16 starters back and enough pop and explosion to keep the league's No. 1 offense rolling. How great was the 2012 season? Outside of the overtime loss to Stanford, every other game was a double-digit win. The pressure will be on for Helfrich to take the team to yet another level.

Eight starters return to the high-octane offense, and that doesn't count De'Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall taking over at running back for Kenjon Barner. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is a superstar in the making, and while the running game will still take center stage, the passing attack should do even more with all the receivers back. Two starters are gone on the line, but tackles Tyler Johnstone and Jake Fisher are good young blockers who should grow into all-stars.

The defense gets everyone back in a strong secondary that finished 15th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a rising star at one corner, while safeties Brian Jackson and Erick Dargan are good tacklers to work around. End Dion Jordan and linebackers Kiki Alonso and Michael Clay have to be replaced, but the team's best pass rusher, 6-6, 292-pound end Taylor Hart, will hold things down on one side, while Ricky Heimuli is a rock on the inside.

2. Washington (7-6)

Slowly but surely, Steve Sarkisian is building up the talent level with another great recruiting class coming in to build on the good recent hauls. This year, the Huskies have the firepower and the experience to make an honest run for the North title with 19 starters returning, and that's not counting punter and placekicker Travis Coons twice.

The offense was a major disappointment as quarterback Keith Price didn't have the next-level season Dawg fans were hoping for, but he's back for his third year as the main man, surrounded by nine other starters including bowl star Bishop Sankey at running back. Center Drew Schaefer is gone from the line, but everyone else is back – now they have to be far better in pass protection. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is one of the nation's top tight end, and Kasen Williams is a good-looking receiver who'll get more work.

The defense was the worst in the Pac-12 in tackles for loss, but Josh Shirley should be among the league's most dangerous ends and linebacker John Timu will be among the top tacklers. It was a young D last season with seven underclassmen playing key roles and now with more experience the results should be far different. Coons is a decent all-around kicker, but he hasn't proven to be an elite one.

3. Stanford (12-2)

There's no way that David Shaw can keep the success going after a few tremendous years, can he? There are some key parts that need to be replaced – especially at tight end – but after winning eight straight games, the Pac-12 title and the Rose Bowl, the expectations are high to continue being a player in the conference chase.

The defense that led the nation in sacks and was second in tackles for loss gets back linebacker Trent Murphy to get into the backfield once again on a regular basis. Tough guy tackler Shayne Skov is back, but playmaker Chase Thomas are both done, and corner Terrence Brown took off early for the NFL, but just about everyone else is back including end Ben Gardner and safeties Jordan Richards and Ed Reynolds. In all, depending on the alignment, as many as nine starters are back – the Cardinal D will be dominant.

Unlike last year, the offense has the quarterback situation settled going into the season with Kevin Hogan firmly entrenched as the main man. Massive tight ends Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz each took off early for the big leagues, and workhorse running back Stepfan Taylor needs to be replaced, but four starters are back on a line that should be among the best in the Pac-12. The passing game will be the early concern with the departure of starting receivers Drew Terrell and Jamal-Rashad Patterson, along with the tight ends.

4. Oregon State (9-4)

After the stunning 2012, can the Beavers keep moving forward and be deep in the mix for the North title? With 18 returning starters and as much quality depth as Mike Riley has been able to amass, OSU shouldn't be considered a sleeper.

The key to any improvement starts with an offensive line that struggled in pass protection and didn't do nearly enough for the ground game. Right tackle Colin Kelly is the only one being replaced up front, and with three seniors back, there should be more consistency to pave the way for Storm Woods and a good-looking group of backs. The coaching staff has to once-and-for-all settle on Sean Mannion at quarterback, or Cody Vaz, or Mannion, or Vaz. Top receiver Markus Wheaton is gone meaning flanker Brandin Cooks has to be even more of a factor.

The defense that was rock solid throughout the year, especially against the run, loses starting tackles Castro Masaniai and Andrew Seumalo, but ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn are good ones to rely on. The secondary loses pickoff artist Jordan Poyer, but the other three starters return in the secondary. Outside linebackers D.J. Alexander and Michael Doctor will make up for the loss of Feti Unga in the middle.

5. California (3-9)

Can Sonny Dykes crank up an offense that finished tenth in the Pac-12 and struggled so much throwing the ball? Considering his Louisiana Tech Bulldogs did absolutely nothing defensively in 2012, will he be able to help a defense that was near the bottom in the conference in almost every category? There's a lot of work to do.

With seven starters back on defense, the secondary has to be far better despite the loss of leading tackler Josh Hill and decent corner Mack Anthony. The linebacking corps is all back full with four starters returning to the 3-4 alignment that will be played around with. Linebacker Nick Forbes and corner Steve Williams can hit, but they need the line to do far more against the run. The pass rush is fine, but nose tackle Aaron Tipoti and 4-3 tackle Kendrick Payne is done.

The offense has to get a big start out of quarterback Allan Bridgford, and he needs time to work behind a porous offensive line that had major problems last year and now has to replace center Brian Schwenke and tackle Tyler Rigsbee. Young receivers Chris Harper, Darius Powe, Maurice Harris and Bryce Treggs will be major factors over the next few years, but the coaching staff has to find a new back to take over for Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson.

6. Washington State (3-9)

Call last year a feeling out period under Mike Leach. It wasn't a shocker that the running game finished dead last in the nation, and it wasn't a stunner that the O line was 124th out of 124 teams in sacks allowed, but the offense didn't really work, the defense was mediocre and inconsistent, and it took an inspired effort in overtime to get a win over Washington to salvage a rough year with high spots few and far between. That all might change in a relative hurry with 20 starters returning.

Is Connor Halliday ready to take over the starting quarterback job? He was the main backup by the end of last season and will get a long look, but the starter needs time to work behind a veteran line that gave up almost five sacks a game, but gets all five starters back. Teondray Caldwell will try to get the running game going, but it's a Leach offense; it'll be about the passing game. Dominique Williams rose up in his redshirt freshman season and could be the No. 1 target, but Isiah Myers and Gabe Marks are promising playmakers who'll see plenty of passes their way.

The defense might not have been great, but it camped out in opposing backfields on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the best pass rusher, Travis Long, is gone, but outside linebacker Cyrus Coen is a good one and strong safety Deone Buchannon a big hitter. In all, nine starters are back on defense with enough depth to create a few good position battles.

- CFN 2013 Pre-Preseason Pac-12 South Rankings